Optical/IP Networks

Adtran Beefs Up Backhaul

CHICAGO -- Supercomm 2009 -- Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) stepped up its mobile backhaul game today, ahead of this week's Supercomm show, as other vendors likewise prepare to show off their backhaul wares.

The vendor has added Ethernet-over-fiber and pseudowire gateway support to its Total Access 5000 multiservice access platform. Its OPTI-6100 optical access platform now supports pseudowire gateway functionality as well. (See Adtran Adds Backhaul Capability and Adtran Adds Ethernet Backhaul.)

These additions are aimed at mobile operators that want to ease backhaul capacity bottlenecks by making the transition to packet-based transport from circuit-based time division multiplexing (TDM), to carry traffic from cell sites back to the core network.

But in terms of pseudowires that carry circuit-switched traffic over packet networks, Adtran has been slow to the game. Competitors -- namely, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , RAD Data Communications Ltd. , and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) -- have already added support for the technology in their products for backhaul, according to Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan.

"In part reflecting uncertainty in the commitment of some of its major U.S. customers, Adtran is one of the last of the major access equipment vendors to commit to supporting pseudowire functionality for mobile backhaul," says Donegan. "Major operators like Sprint Nextel and AT&T are committed to this path going forward."

Adtran's Kevin Morgan, director of product marketing for the carrier networks division, explains that the company hasn't pushed pseudowire technology because operators did not seem to want it, although it has had functionality on the market for about two to three years for use in some niche applications.

"There was a hype cycle back about three years ago, and it didn’t take off, in our opinion," Morgan says. "On the part of operators, there was some hesitancy to adopt it widely. They were comfortable with circuit-based connections."

Adtran has decided now is the right time to integrate the technology, adds Morgan.

Mobile operators are looking at shifting from circuit-based to packet-based backhaul, but that change is slow in coming, despite the clear advantages of cost savings and capacity gains that can be had from such a transition. A recent Heavy Reading report, "Packet Backhaul: Carrier Strategies & Real-World Deployments," found that there were less than 55,000 cell sites live with packet backhaul at the end of April 2009. The main reason for holding back on packet-based backhaul, even though operators have already made this transition in their core networks, is operators' perception of technology risk and organizational issues, according to the report. (See StarHub Sets Packet Precedent and Carriers Go Slow on Packet Backhaul.)

Backhaul on the Agenda
Adtran won't be the only vendor touting new backhaul capabilities at Supercomm this week. (See Supercomm Lifts the Broadband Curtain, 10 Reasons to Attend Supercomm, and Should Broadband Flow Like Water?)

Transmode Systems AB will be showing off its relatively new WDM-over-fiber backhaul offering as a prime contender for wholesale backhaul service providers. (See Transmode Hawks Mobile Backhaul and Transmode Joins Mobile Backhaul Fray .)

Meanwhile, RAD unveiled today a Carrier Ethernet demarcation device that has a SyncToP timing-over-packet feature. When used as a mobile backhaul transport gateway, the device can save operators on backhaul costs because it combines "smart demarcation" and network synchronization, RAD says. (See RAD Shows SyncToP at Supercomm.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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